FOMC Minutes: "Appropriate To Provide Additional Monetary Policy Accommodation"

Here is the key section with highlights on the November 3 QE2 announement:

Participants discussed the medium-term outlook for monetary policy and issues related to monetary policy implementation. Many participants noted that if economic growth remained too slow to make satisfactory progress toward reducing the unemployment rate or if inflation continued to come in below levels consistent with the FOMC's dual mandate, it would be appropriate to provide additional monetary policy accommodation. However, others thought that additional accommodation would be warranted only if the outlook worsened and the odds of deflation increased materially. Meeting participants discussed several possible approaches to providing additional accommodation but focused primarily on further purchases of longer-term Treasury securities and on possible steps to affect inflation expectations. Participants reviewed the likely benefits and costs associated with a program of purchasing additional longer-term assets--with some noting that the economic benefits could be small in current circumstances--as well as the best means to calibrate and implement such purchases. A number of participants commented on the important role of inflation expectations for monetary policy: With short-term nominal interest rates constrained by the zero bound, a decline in short-term inflation expectations increases short-term real interest rates (that is, the difference between nominal interest rates and expected inflation), thereby damping aggregate demand. Conversely, in such circumstances, an increase in inflation expectations lowers short-term real interest rates, stimulating the economy. Participants noted a number of possible strategies for affecting short-term inflation expectations, including providing more detailed information about the rates of inflation the Committee considered consistent with its dual mandate, targeting a path for the price level rather than the rate of inflation, and targeting a path for the level of nominal GDP. As a general matter, participants felt that any needed policy accommodation would be most effective if enacted within a framework that was clearly communicated to the public. The minutes of FOMC meetings were seen as an important channel for communicating participants' views about monetary policy.

On inflation:

With respect to the statement to be released following the meeting, members agreed that it was appropriate to adjust the statement to make it clear that underlying inflation had been running below levels that the Committee judged to be consistent with its mandate for maximum employment and price stability, in part to help anchor inflation expectations. Nearly all members agreed that the statement should reiterate the expectation that economic conditions were likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period. One member, however, believed that continuing to communicate that expectation in the Committee's statement would create conditions that could lead to macroeconomic and financial imbalances. Members generally thought that the statement should note that the Committee was prepared to provide additional accommodation if needed to support the economic recovery and to return inflation, over time, to levels consistent with its mandate. Such an indication accorded with the members' sense that such accommodation may be appropriate before long, but also made clear that any decisions would depend upon future information about the economic situation and outlook.

On the previously leaked GDP number:

In the economic forecast prepared for the September FOMC meeting, the staff lowered its projection for the increase in real economic activity over the second half of 2010. The staff also reduced slightly its forecast of growth next year but continued to anticipate a moderate strengthening of the expansion in 2011 as well as a further pickup in economic growth in 2012. The softer tone of incoming economic data suggested that the underlying level of demand was weaker than projected at the time of the August meeting. Moreover, the outlook for foreign economic activity also appeared a bit weaker. In the medium term, the recovery in economic activity was expected to receive support from accommodative monetary policy, further improvements in financial conditions, and greater household and business confidence. Over the forecast period, the increase in real GDP was projected to be sufficient to slowly reduce economic slack, although resource slack was anticipated to still remain elevated at the end of 2012.

The lone crusader against insanity continues to be Hoenig:

Voting for this action: Ben Bernanke, William C. Dudley, James Bullard, Elizabeth Duke, Sandra Pianalto, Eric Rosengren, Daniel K. Tarullo, and Kevin Warsh.

Voting against this action: Thomas M. Hoenig.

Mr. Hoenig dissented, emphasizing that the economy was entering the second year of moderate recovery and that, while the zero interest rate policy and "extended period" language were appropriate during the crisis and its immediate aftermath, they were no longer appropriate with the recovery under way. Mr. Hoenig also emphasized that, in his view, the current high levels of unemployment were not caused by high interest rates but by an extended period of exceptionally low rates earlier in the decade that contributed to the housing bubble and subsequent collapse and recession. He believed that holding rates artificially low would invite the development of new imbalances and undermine long-run growth. He would prefer removing the "extended period" language and thereafter moving the federal funds rate upward, consistent with his views at past meetings that it approach 1 percent, before pausing to determine what further policy actions were needed. Also, given current economic and financial conditions, Mr. Hoenig did not believe that continuing to reinvest principal payments from SOMA securities holdings was required to support the Committee's policy objectives.

All in all, just as expected